The city of Valparaiso is often called paradise valley and is about 120km from the capital of Chile. It is South America’s most important harbor city with a long history. Today, it boasts a modern container harbor. Indeed, with the upgrading of its harbors, Chile is hoping to become the most important transshipment Center in the whole of Latin America. The city’s development was from the beginning closely connected with its harbor. Its history began in 1536 when Spaniard Wanda Savita first set eyes on the bay. At that time, the Chango Indian survived here by fishing. The hills were forested and honey palm trees grew along the coast.
In 1542, Pedro de Valdivia designated the city as a harbor port for the upcoming city of Santiago which subsequently became the capital city. A tiny harbor was built that contained a small mole, a church, and a few huts. Goods were carried through the water but it really began to develop at the beginning of the 18th century. Cargo ships brought goods from Spain and returned loaded with gold and silver. Whale hunters stopped here on the way to the Arctic as well as those ships that had circumnavigated Cape Horn and the Magellan Straits. For all of them, Valparaiso was the first large harbor in which it was possible to rest and replenish food suppliers. It was an idyllic place with pelicans, gulls, and seals welcoming the arriving seafarers with varying degrees of curiosity.
The strategic location of this harbor city brought good fortune and much power. A narrow stretch of land along the bay became the city center. Today, the Monumento a los Heroes Iquique is a reminder of the heroes of a sea battle during the saltpeter war. In 1910, the headquarters of the Chilean navy was built on the location of the Old Intendencia that dates back to colonial times. An impressive building, it was once the seat of the governor of the province and administrative center and finally in 1930 summer seat of the President of Chile. Because of all these factors, in 2003 UNESCO designated the city as a World Heritage Site.
When the trading of wheat, copper, and saltpeter began, many Europeans settled here. In 1559, down on the narrow plan at the waterside, the first chapel was built. In the 19th century, it was further developed and extended. In 1837, the main church of Iglesias la Matriz was inaugurated – a white shining building that is no longer situated on the shoreline.
The city’s Golden Age lasted for only a hundred years; in 1906 an earthquake devastated the city and six thousand people died in the ruins. The next blow occurred in 1914, the Panama Canal was inaugurated and suddenly Valparaiso became cut off from the international trading routes but the people persevered, rebuilt their houses, fisherman returned to work, and the trading companies set about developing new business ideas. A positive attitude helped people to gain new strength and make a fresh start.
Splendid wall paintings have been created on the city’s various terraces. These Marathas were painted by the students of the Universidad Católica. Colorful houses on the steep hills add the unique flair of this fine city and almost every hill contains inhabitants of different roots. Numerous steep steps lead to residential areas that have also been painted in an artistic style. The most beautiful of which is known as the open-air museum. There were once 29 escalators but today only 15 are still in operation. From each Hill, the view across the sea of houses is quite remarkable. This old city on the sea was once the pearl of the Pacific a city of hills and escalators.